Recall Fears in U.S. as Hyundai-Kia Comes Under Investigation

      September 02, 2010 11:54

      Hyundai salesmen stand in front of a showroom in Seoul on Wednesday. /Reuters-Newsis

      An investigation has been launched in the U.S. into alleged defects with the Hyundai Sonata sedan after the Kia Soul multipurpose car. Following two consumers' complaints over the Sonata's steering wheel, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the Hyundai vehicle on Tuesday.

      As for the Soul, only one consumer complaint has been registered, but since the person uploaded related footage on YouTube, the problem seems to have been snowballing.

      The U.S. media speculate that the problems are caused by defective steering systems as in the case of the Lexus LS. The NHTSA said the probe is only a preliminary investigation to see whether the automobiles concerned actually have such defects. Some observers suspect that the U.S. is intentionally targeting Hyundai after Toyota since it is very unusual for a massive investigation to be triggered by a single complaint.

      The Sonata and the Soul are flagship models of their respective makers in the U.S. market. Hyundai sold a total of 108,000 Sonatas in the U.S. over the first seven months of this year, accounting for 46 percent of total sales there. Some 8,000 units of the Soul were exported to the U.S. in July alone, ranking second among Kia cars only to the Sorento crossover that is manufactured there. Kia aims to sell over 10,000 Souls per month there in the second half.

      Hyundai and Kia say the problems are more likely to be related to assembly processes rather than structural defects. In the Soul, the steering system’s bolts were poorly connected on the assembly line. As for the two Sonatas, one suffered from noise and vibration due to a loosely connected steering system, while in the other one, the steering system separated because of poor assembly.

      An industry insider said poor assembly means that the automakers' quality control is imperfect. A Hyundai-Kia spokesperson said the vehicles "do not seem to have safety issues that require recalls. But we are preparing measures to prevent the recurrence of the same problems. We're keenly waiting for the U.S. authorities' investigation results."

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